Sustainable Urban Design

An award-winning commitment to maximizing energy efficiency, limiting carbon emissions and creating pedestrian-friendly spaces.

A core value of both the Manhattanville campus plan and the design of each new building is environmental sustainability. From the materials employed to the creative use of natural light and air flow, the result has been an award-winning approach to maximizing energy efficiency and limiting carbon emissions.

U.S. Green Building Council Designation

The campus's environmentally sustainable design and overall project plan achieved Stage 1 LEED Platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Neighborhood Development pilot rating systemthe highest designation in the rating system. It is the first such award in New York City and the first given to a campus plan anywhere in the U.S. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the foremost program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for optimal environmental and human health performance. Strengths of the Manhattanville campus plan include proximity to mass transit; planned mixed uses including arts, community, academic, retail and residential; open neighborhood access; green open space; pedestrian-friendly streets and sidewalks; and a commitment to best practices in clean, low-emission construction.

Centralized energy plant to increase energy efficiency
A rendering of the centralized energy plant.

Energy Efficiency

A centralized energy plant beneath the campus will be far more energy efficient than the traditional approach, which requires boilers and stacks at each building. It is a single, central location that provides chilled water, high pressure steam and normal electric power service across the Manhattanville campus. Located below the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts, the central energy facility includes a refrigeration plant, high-efficiency dual fuel-fired (oil and natural gas) boiler plant, normal electric power service from Con Edison, a robust emergency/standby/diesel generator plant and associated support and advanced control systems.

Learn more about sustainability features of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center.

Clean and Quiet Construction

Construction in an urban environment can be disruptive. Columbia's pioneering partnership with Environmental Defense Fund led to the use of the most cutting-edge clean construction techniques that ensured the lowest possible emissions of carbon dust, sound and vibrations in the construction process. On site, we allow only the latest EPA-approved diesel engine equipment or recent models with approved retrofits to minimize pollution emissions.  Every truck that leaves the site must have its wheels and undercarriage washed so it doesn’t take dust out into the city streets. 

We’re keeping things quiet with:

  • New and less noisy equipment
  • Ambient sensitive, self-adjusting back-up alarms
  • Equipment mufflers
  • Cantilevered construction fence covered in noise-mitigating blankets
  • Portable noise barriers

Construction truck carrying off materials to be recycled.
Construction truck carrying off materials to be recycled is first washed off before hitting the road.

In announcing Columbia's issuing of $50 million in Green Bonds to fund construction of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called the construction of the building an example of "how the public and private sectors can work together to promote a cleaner and greener tomorrow."

Other efforts have included recycling more than 90 percent of building materials from demolition, training community members in green construction skills, and improving infrastructure to reduce wastewater overflow into the Hudson River by an estimated 1.5 million gallons per year. 

Columbia is a participant in Construction for a Livable City (CLC), an initiative of the New York Building Foundation that promotes efforts by New York City building organizations to manage construction sites more effectively, improve relationships with the surrounding community and recognize innovations—such as the Manhattanville clean construction program—among industry peers.

Marcelo Velez, Vice President for Manhattanville Development

When I went to see the Manhattanville construction site, what struck me was that it was very quiet, clean and calm. Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion can serve as a clean construction model for other cities and universities.Isabelle Silverman, former senior attorney, Environmental Defense Fund

Green Salvage Program Provides Training for Local Workers

When the University took down a brick building on 125th Street, a new and diverse group of workers made sure that almost nothing from the building went to waste. Instead, some 77 tons of furniture, computers and building materials were prepared for reuse or recycling.

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The Jerome L. Greene Science Center will play a key role in the futures of both Columbia University and the State of New York. Not only will this facility help strengthen New York as a hub for cutting edge research, but also its construction demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together to promote a cleaner and greener tomorrow.New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo